Didn’t sign up for this

One of the things I love about my fitness center is that all the instructors and staff treat everyone with respect. It doesn’t matter what shape you are, it’s assumed that everyone is there to improve his or her health and enjoy the experience.

Until last night.

After 55 minutes of shaking my money-maker in Zumba, I darted over to the adjoining studio for my favorite strength-building class, Power Sculpt. This class does a little cardio, a lot of work with hand weights and resistance bands, and my much-needed ab crunches.

The instructors rotate, which is great because you get a different experience from what each instructor brings to the class and it keeps the format fresh. Last night we had an instructor I had never met before. Seen her around the gym, but I had never taken one of her classes.

Things started out great. She had lots of energy and was keeping the mood light.

Then she asked me — the lady in black — for my name.

“Nona,” I said. She repeated it a couple of times. No bigs, it’s an unusual name and the music is really loud.

She then proceeded to tell me my stance wasn’t wide enough for my plie squats. OK. I have a strained muscle in my left glute right now, so I was trying to take it easy with squats, but not wanting to explain my injured butt to her at that moment, I just widened my stance.

After we moved on to the dumbbell portion of the program, she gleefully called me by name to tell me I needed to adjust my arm for a tricep exercise. OK. I want to improve my arms, so I made the adjustment.

Later, we were doing seated rows with the resistance band. She made a point of coming over to show me I hadn’t wrapped the band around my shoes properly. Neither had a few other class members, whom she ignored, but she was sure to point out that I was doing it wrong.

Then we moved on another row set where we crossed the band across our lap for more resistance. I hadn’t notice the change because I was feeling all stabby at that point. But I sure noticed it when she called me out for doing it wrong. Again.

At that point, the bubbly instructor had become all those mean kids in school and all those sadistic gym teachers who were happy to announce to the world that I wasn’t good enough, strong enough or fast enough to do anything physical. I felt all those insecurities surge back. I felt inept, out-of-place and foolish.

I was angry and humiliated. I wanted to walk out.

But I stayed, because this was my workout, and although I was cussing mad, I am not a quitter.

I was, however, in no mood to stay for yoga. I grabbed my mats to exit the studio as all the other yoga students were filing in. The sculpt instructor noticed me with my mats in hand and asked me if I was staying for yoga.

“Not after this buzzkill class,” I snapped.

She waited for me outside the studio and asked me if I enjoyed her class. Really? I told her no. I don’t like being singled out for critique. I told her that may motivate some people, but it has the opposite effect on me.

She apologized. She said she didn’t mean to make me feel bad. She asked me to give her another chance. I absolutely believe she was sincere.

She had no idea the long battle I’ve had with myself over my physical fitness. She was clueless about how much being the object of criticism in a room full of people, almost all healthier and fitter than me, stings my psyche. Her words, while perhaps well intentioned, were thoughtless and hurtful.

So the point of this long, rambling entry is this: Unless someone is in dire risk of injury, save the technical advice about exercise for a private moment.

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4 Responses to “Didn’t sign up for this”

  1. DJ says:

    I will start by saying I missed you in yoga, I thought it was odd you didn’t stay. I was hoping the fact you were called out in class several times wasn’t the reason you left. I can see from the story above it was. I don’t believe the instructor meant to be hurtful or picking on you, but they should limit it to one correction per person per class. To keep calling out one particular person in class can make that person feel insecure and that all eye are on them. Even better just leave us to correct ourselves with time. We know our own physical limitation as she knows her own. I feel that this incident may stay in your heart and on your mind for a while but please don’t let it steer you away from class. You give me personal motivation to keep coming and push myself to achieve a better life with more flexibility and mobility. Other than your self and a very few others that know you, this incident has been forgot by most before they when to bed that night. Please don’t dwell on it and I hope to see you back in class. I didn’t get to thank you for setting me up that is truly helpful and appreciated by myself and all the others you do that for.

    Keep up the good work,


    PS I won’t need a spot next week, do to business.

    • Nona says:

      DJ: Thanks for the nice comment. I won’t let that keep me from coming back to classes, believe me. I’ve worked too hard to let one person, who I am convinced didn’t mean to be mean, keep me from working out. And I have so enjoyed making friends like you and Babs, Kate and Jerry. I will be tomorrow for three classes, actually.

      Hope your business goes well.

  2. Sally says:

    You have worked too hard and come too far to allow anyone to make you feel less than the person you are today. If it ever happens again, realize that the remarks can help you reach your goal for your health and whether they are intended to hurt or not, you have already proved to yourself that you can do this and take what you can use and ignore the rest. Of course you could always give a fake name. Nona, I have been so impressed with your determination, if anyone makes you feel like skipping something, give me a call and I will come and beat them up! Love to you and Phil.

    • Nona says:

      Sally: While this incident did kill my buzz for yoga class that night, it won’t keep me from going to the gym. Phil and I have come too far to stop now. Thanks for your encouragement. It means so much to both of us.

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